Akpom states Arsenal case with hat-trick in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Rookie striker Chuba Akpom put forward his case for more playing time at Arsenal next season by scoring a hat-trick in a lopsided 4-0 win over a Singapore Select XI in the Premier League Asian Trophy on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old academy striker, who signed a long-term contract in February, has made only four substitute appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal and has been farmed out on loan to lower tier sides Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest in recent years for experience.
With striker Danny Welbeck not making the trip to Asia because of injury and first-choice forward Olivier Giroud, like most of the headline acts, given the night off by manager Arsene Wenger, it was left to Akpom to make the most of a rare opportunity to start.
After some nervy opening touches, he smashed home the opener at Singapore’s National Stadium on the half hour mark after defender Baihakki Khaizan blocked Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere but could not clear adequately.
Wilshere then added a second from the penalty spot in the 60th minute after Mathieu Debuchy had been brought down in the area.
The England midfielder was then taken off and Akpom given the chance to show his penalty prowess after substitute Jon Toral was hauled down by Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud in the 76th minute.
The Londoner confidently sent Izwan the wrong way and then completed his hat-trick three minutes later after nodding home a cross from the right by Hector Bellerin.
The striker, who joined the club aged six and was playing under-18s football at 15, could have scored a fourth at the death but for a strong save by Izwan.
Wenger, who also offered game time to promising academy talents Alex Iwobi, Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley and Chris Willock, gave Akpom hope of more first-team chances.
“I sent him out on loan last year, because I thought
he needed that and this season no, I plan to keep him with us,” the Frenchman told reporters.
“It’s down to performance and attitude,” he added of Akpom’s chances of starting more.
“Let’s not forget it’s a friendly, he is talented but he has to work.”
Arsenal are through to Saturday’s final where they will face Everton, who earlier beat Stoke City 5-4 on penalties after a drab goalless draw. -Reuters